UW-Eau Claire a cappella group member shares his story

Will Johnston finds place he belongs in joining Fifth Element

More stories from Sydney Purpora


Photo by Sydney Purpora

Fifth Element member, Will Johnston, shares his love of a cappella music at the group’s opening night of their first self-written musical Fifth Element: The Musical

There he was, sitting in a dark theater patiently awaiting the next performance. Suddenly, the lights beamed down from the sound booth and panned over to the stage.

Out of the darkness from the back of the stage came an echoing harmonized tune that resonated throughout the theater. Then slowly, one by one, the members of an all male a cappella group emerged from the darkness and made their way to center stage.

From that moment on, sophomore public relations student Will Johnston’s life changed forever.

“When I saw Fifth Element, they opened my eyes,” Johnston said. “To see guys my age singing and having their work mean something made me think ‘I want to be a part of that.’”

Johnston attended the A Cappella Extravaganza where high school and college groups show their love for a cappella and perform for thousands of audience members. That is when he knew it was his calling.

Being a part of the music scene throughout high school, Johnston said he has always used singing as his creative outlet.

When Johnston was a freshman at UW-Eau Claire, he continued his involvement in choir and joined the Singing Statesmen. Because he grew up with a choir background, Johnston said at first he did not think about joining an a cappella group until he was exposed to it live.

Johnston started out in Fifth Element shadowing and learning the tricks of the trade before he got to move up to performing with the group.

Throughout his journey with the group, Johnston said his favorite part is just being with the guys.

“Getting to hang out with these guys I have been able to build a great bond with them,” Johnston said.

Ironically, Fifth Element consists of six members: Seth K. Hale, Will Johnston, Lucas Jordan, Matt Nyman, Zac Plein and of course, Johnston.

The a cappella group was created over 18 years ago when five men who auditioned to be a part of other a cappella groups did not make it into any of them and decided to start one of their own.

Fifth Element is one of six a cappella groups on campus, but it is the only one that is not specifically associated with choir singers. The group allows males who are not associated with choir to take part.

The group does a tour to different schools throughout Wisconsin every winter break where they hold interactive vocal workshops and teach students the history of a cappella. Johnston said they often try to visit each member’s hometown giving them a chance to show their former teachers where they are now.

“It is awesome to give back to the community and teach others what you have learned,” Johnston said.

He said he hopes the group continues to grow in the future and brings back the once large popularity of a cappella to campus.